Address water scarcity issue urgently

India awaits the arrival of the annual summer monsoon. Normal rainfall is vital for agriculture, the health of forests, rivers and wetlands. The India Meteorological Department has forecast normal rainfall of 96% of the long period average of 89 cm rain.

Rainfall is absolutely important for farms, cities and industry. State governments should have pursued the setting up of new recharging wells and made improvements to existing ones on a war footing. They should encourage harvesting of surface water and help farmers raise the efficiency of irrigation.

There is the need for India to clean up its act on rising industrial emissions, and burning of fossil fuels and biomass in order to improve the stability of the monsoon. An equally key area of concern is freshwater availability for households. Urbanisation trends and the severe water stress that residents experience underscore the need for mandatory rainwater harvesting policies and augmented efforts by States to preserve surface water by building new reservoirs.

Compared to the 1970s and 1980s, there has been some improvement in irrigation facilities, at least in the northern and western parts of India. The rabi (winter) crop—that is far less susceptible to the vagaries of the monsoon— now provides more than half of the annual agricultural output. The agricultural sector now plays a much smaller role—compared to industry and services— in output and growth. All these changes have meant that poor monsoons have lost the kind of destabilizing effect that they had on growth rates earlier. However, all the states should prepare for recharging the wells, improve the existing wells and rain water harvesters in urban areas and to build new reservoirs.

It is true that in developing countries like India there is a scarcity of fresh potable water. This leads to many water related diseases. This will affect agriculture and in turn cause inflation and affect the economy. Thus the government cannot afford to waste time and it has to keep in mind that a stitch in time saves nine. It cannot put aside water scarcity for the sake of elections.

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